Canberra Raiders 2017 season review

Eddie Otto Roar Guru

By Eddie Otto, Eddie Otto is a Roar Guru

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14 Have your say

    The Raiders entered 2017 as one of the popular picks to win the premiership after a brilliant 2016 season.

    Having lost to the Storm by just two points in the preliminary final, many expected a settled Raiders team to continue on the huge momentum they built off the back of winning their last ten regular season games in 2016. However, the season would prove one of frustration and disappointment as the Raiders became one of the flops of the season, missing the finals altogether.

    Season finish: 10th
    Vital statistics: 11 wins, 13 losses, 558 points scored, 497 points conceded.

    Season rating: 2/10
    It might seem tough to give a team that finished outside the bottom six a rating of 2/10, but the Raiders came into the season as one of the rightful premiership favourites. However, they never really lived up to the hype, with a number of close losses from poor game management and poor discipline in games.

    The Raiders can (can’t?) blame bad luck with the roster they had. I thought their forwards underperformed for most of the season, and the players in their spine, outside of Josh Hodgson, never raised their games or took ownership of the close games. The team at very worst should have scraped into the top eight; to miss the finals was probably the biggest shock of any team this season.

    Coach rating: 5/10
    I think Ricky Stuart overall has done a great job at the Raiders, and I don’t think this year will stop the hierarchy having faith in him. I think it’s up to the playmakers to step up under pressure and deliver, otherwise I’m sure Ricky might be on the market for a half or two in the next couple of years. The salary cap has started to bite a bit, however, so Ricky might need to get a bit more out of some of last year’s players if they want to get back to where they were, just two points away from the grand final in 2016.

    (Image: AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    Best win: Round 22 – Cronulla Sharks 12-30 Canberra Raiders
    This was clearly the Raiders’ best win of the season, over a strong side in a hostile environment. Fast, powerful and physical, this was meant to the blueprint on which Canberra could build a premiership challenge. Sadly, these performances were few and far between.

    Worst loss: Penrith Panthers 24-20 Canberra Raiders
    I chose this game as it is unforgivable to give up an eight-point lead with just two minutes to go. However, that is exactly what they did here against a rival for a top eight spot. While this was the Raiders’ most dramatic loss of the year, they suffered many close defeats as they failed to have the mental toughness or game management to close out much-needed victories. It cost them dearly in the end.

    Best player: Elliott Whitehead
    While many of the Raiders’ biggest names flopped in 2017, I thought the big Englishman was outstanding for the majority of the season. He filled in at a number of positions and maintained a high quality work rate and a strong defensive technique. He was by far the Raiders most consistent player this season.

    Most disappointing player: Blake Austin
    The enigmatic five-eighth had been a popular wildcard for an Origin berth over the past couple of years but he was ordinary for much of 2017. Austin’s running game remained dangerous, but his general passing and kicking game was far too inconsistent for a player of his talent. Combined with Aidan Sezer, they failed to take control in clutch moments and will be under pressure to produce much better football or be moved on in 2018.

    Prospects for 2018: Likely top-eight finish
    I think this team learnt a lot from this year’s near misses and will make the necessary adjustments next season. I still have some doubts about whether their halves and their fullback will be good enough in big games; however, the roster clearly has top-eight talent all over it.

    It is not a young side anymore, and I think Ricky Stuart will have to crack the whip over the preseason. While you wouldn’t back them with confidence after what they produced last year, I think this side has the talent to not only get back into the top eight but potentially the top four.

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • October 10th 2017 @ 7:31am
      bear54 said | October 10th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      We need a fullback who is dynamic, creative and dangerous. Jack Wighton is none of these…..

      • October 10th 2017 @ 1:17pm
        zim said | October 10th 2017 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

        He’s 2nd in try assists only to Sezer. First in line break assists. Wighton’s creativity or attack is not an issue.
        Consistency, reliability under the high ball and positioning for kicks all need work.

        Wighton isn’t the sides biggest problem. Respect for the ball is. You can look at the Raiders completion stat and tell whether they won or not. That’s not true for all teams (eg Cronulla) but it definitely is for ours.

    • Roar Rookie

      October 10th 2017 @ 10:02am
      David Brown said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      I don’t think Blake Austin was given much help. Although the Raiders often got yards with dummy half runs and attacking the narrow blindside it was therefore hard for him to set up plays. When he got the ball Rapana and Leilua were often in the middle of the pitch.

      I agree that Whitehead was the best player due to his consistency, something the team badly lacked, but Cotric pushed him close.

      • October 10th 2017 @ 11:54pm
        terrence said | October 10th 2017 @ 11:54pm | ! Report

        Problems are DB:

        Way too much niggle tolerated by the coaching staff, half the team want to win the sledge (esp Leilua, Repana, the poms, can’t believe the coaches did go berserk, but hey, Ricky loved the niggle and giving a dog shot!)
        Way below average 6 and 7 (they need a player who can control a game)
        Way too many games against Manly (who won the niggle and two games in golden point)
        Way too many games against DCE and Dylan Walker (see above)
        Way too overrated coaching staff (i.e. Stuart, Pay, et al. who didn’t crack down on players who couldn’t focus on anything but the niggle, Dogs will struggle with PayPal in charge)
        Way too big forward pack with no attacking creativity and lazy defense.

        Otherwise all is fine.

    • October 10th 2017 @ 10:29am
      KingCowboy said | October 10th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

      Raiders won’t win a P’Ship with Stuart as coach. I actually think they should go after Hasler. Could see him doing damage with that playing roster!

      • October 10th 2017 @ 1:19pm
        zim said | October 10th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

        I don’t know if a coach that can’t manage a salary cap is the best fit for a team that has a history of having to pay a little extra to lure players.

    • Roar Guru

      October 10th 2017 @ 1:43pm
      Adam said | October 10th 2017 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

      I think the Raiders need to learn some composure first. Too many winnable games lost through poor time management or poor choices at the death – ie against Manly at home

      • October 12th 2017 @ 12:50pm
        Eddie Otto said | October 12th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

        This sums it up best for me Adam. This side finished with a positive differential. However they just lost too many games in the final 15 minutes when they needed their playmakers to step up. The side certainly lacked some leadership and direction during the clutch moments.

    • October 11th 2017 @ 1:37pm
      Taree Raider said | October 11th 2017 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

      Ricky Stuart was a great halfback, he seems to go alright as a coach. Ricky has had the team long enough that every player in the squad is who he wants. My slant on the Raiders.
      If CRONK, THURSTON, MALONEY, HUNT, MORGAN or any other half with ‘game management’ skills were playing for the Raiders they’d win much more than they’d loose. Ricky was a game manager when he played, why can’t he coach game management. Siezer has a kicking game, running game, defends well. He can do all this, but he hasn’t. WHY?
      Ricky plays favourites. Being from Taree, I am an avid follower of Mitch Barnett. Ricky was alternating between Barnett & Luke Bateman during the end of the 2015 season. Ricky liked Bateman more, let Barnett go. At this time blind Freddy could see Barnett’s ability, Metro Cup player of the year. I look at every player in the team & think what would their demand be is they were on the open market. Barnett who would want him if he was available, every other team. Bateman, PNG Hunters maybe.
      Case in point. Jack Wighton. Jack has talent, ability, athleticism, ball playing skills, runs hard, good defender with work ethic. Just never at the same time on the same day. No doubt Jack is a lovely bloke, but he has the highest error rate of any fullback in the comp. In fact the third highest in the NRL. Yet Ricky sticks with him, openly stating that Jack is his favourite. That’s good Ricky, but you are being paid a lot to be the coach, you have to be ruthless, you can’t keep picking Jack just because you like him a lot. Cotric goes well at fullback, Jack would make a reasonable centre, don’t you dare put him on the wing, but then again I know where the opposition would kick to. Who would want Jack on the open market. PNG Hunters maybe.
      You mention the Bathurst game against the Panthers, 8 up with 90 seconds to go. We lost that game because Ricky took Papauli from the field. This created the hole in the defence that let the Panthers run riot.
      The Raiders forward pack is not lacking in any way, in fact their best pack I wouldn’t swap. We have the second best hooker in Hodson & the third best one in Baptise. Yet Ricky uses Baptise sparingly, every team wants a player that adds spark when they come onto the field, Baptise does this every single time, he is one of the best defenders in the NRL, he allows Hodson to play like a half when they are both on the field but for some reason Ricky doesnt seem to have Kurt on his favourites list. When Baptise’s contract is up, who will want him, every other team.
      Ricky what has happened to Shannon Boyd. Was he injured for most of 2017 or has he lost interest?
      Boyd & Paulo are the best front row pairing in the NRL when they are on song.
      Lastly the Raiders defensive coach is now the Bulldogs head coach, I don’t know why there is such a focus on defence. I love the Raiders when they just play open attacking footy, I don’t care what the score is or how many missed tackles, completed sets or other dribble. If you score more points than the opposition you win. If you throw the ball around the opposition tire, you score further points & WIN. I think that the fans enjoy having a point of difference, I’m sure the players do too. Bring one 2018, 2019, 2020. I just love the footy.

      • October 11th 2017 @ 4:56pm
        Albo said | October 11th 2017 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

        I would agree with much of your summation here Taree Raider.
        Their key issue as I see it is that their spine was well below par in 2017 which impacted greatly on their team’s fortunes. Their 6 & 7 lacked any consistency. I guess that’s why both Penrith & the Tigers let Austin go without fuss, and the Titans were happy to offer millions to DCE and let Sezer go. Wighton too has some ability but is a mistake-a-thon at the back, and Hodgson’s form was well below his 2016 season form. They have a good solid pack of forwards but need a couple more running types more so than bulky boppers, and their outside backs are always dangerous but can lack discipline ( eg Leilua) . But their spine generally fails to manage their games leaving a haphazard pattern of individual flair to dictate their fortunes. In 2016 it worked for them , not so 2017 when opposition sides worked out ways to stifle notably Leilua & Rapana. Whilst the fans love the flair the Raiders can put out there, they demand more consistent results that can only come about with a better game plan and on field management of the plan. Not sure if they have any young 6 & 7’s coming through their juniors, but I reckon they need a new set now !

      • Roar Rookie

        October 12th 2017 @ 8:30am
        Hard Yards said | October 12th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

        Great post.

      • October 12th 2017 @ 10:16am
        Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | October 12th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        Great comments Taree Raider. Can’t disagaree with anything you’ve said. I’ve been just as frustrated as you with the form of Jack Wighton. He can look pretty ordinary under the high ball at times but you can’t question his work rate and he is developing his support play in terms of try assists and scoring himself. I think he just needs to work on his positioning a bit in defence. I thought he was one of our better attacking options in the second half of the season plus he made huge metres from kick returns when the forwards got tired.

        And agree Ricky has to learn to use Baptiste better. He is a wasted resource. I was screaming from the stands at Ricky to put Kurt on when it was obvious that the side needed his spark and enthusiasm when we were struggling (I sit about 40 metres away from where Ricky sits on the sidelines). Putting him on for the last 10 minutes is pointless and a ridiculous waste of talent. I thought the forwards (apart from Paulo and Papalii) and halves really struggled this season and its hard to put the finger on why. Hodgson overplayed his hand at times and I think that was due to the halves not taking the initiative. I keep saying this but Sezer has to be the man and Austin and Hodgson the support cast.

        I think the Raiders paid for not having much depth this year (brought about by having to release players such as the Lees, Fensom and Vaughan to keep under the salary cap) as there wasn’t anyone running around in the Mounties with the calibre of putting pressure on the incumbents in the team. I think this bred complacency to a degree. Plus all the talk about them being one of the favourites to compete for the flag built up too much expectation which they weren’t able to handle. It will be interesting to see whether recruiting Sam Williams puts pressure on the halves to perform and hopefully they recruit Brad Abbey from the Dogs as an alternative to Jack Wighton at full back.

        I expect the Raiders to perform a lot better next year as there will be little in the way of expectation, they have a similar squad to the one that performed so well in 2016, they should all be wanting to make up for a disappointing 2017 and hopefully they will have recruited sufficient depth to put pressure on players selected. They need to come out of the blocks all guns blazing at the start of the season and try to get some consistency in terms of completing their sets.

    • October 11th 2017 @ 4:54pm
      Greg Ambrose said | October 11th 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

      I follow the Eagles and I wonder how many of our players would have made the Raiders team at the start of the year? DCE and Thomas the Turbo I imagine and you could argue Jake Turbo and Marty T but they certainly didn’t need any forwards at the start of the year. Even DCE didn’t appear to be needed.

      In hindsight I reckon they would have grabbed Turbo if he was available and said no to the rest.

      They have a pretty handy roster which looked good enough to win the title but they had an immature attitude it seemed. The next year or two will make or break Ricky Stuarts coaching career. Hasler led the Dogs down the gurgler last year and Stuart will need to find a few answers in the off season to avoid a similar scenario.

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